Words by Ed King
The phrase ‘graduated from the BRIT school’ usually sends me running for darkness; hiding from an army of egos ‘including classmates Adele, Jessie J, Katy B…’
Charlene Soraia graduated from the BRIT School, and despite lacking; GCSE Music, a Grime remix, dyed hair or an acronym, she released her debut album – ‘Moonchild’, last year. Although her cover of The Calling’s cliché massacre – ‘Wherever You Will Go’, and its promulgation on a Twinings TV ad, may have helped a bit with the budget.
‘Moonchild’, released on Peacefrog Records in November 2011, is a 12 (original) track album of ‘alternative folk’. Another fatuous descriptive to add to the list (came across ‘mutant garage’ the other day, quite fond of that one).
It also includes Soraia’s cover of ‘Wherever You Will Go’ as a bonus track; where with just a voice and piano Soraia manages to turn the lyrically inane into something quite beautiful. A trick The Calling missed the first time around.
Featuring many tracks from her previous EPs, ‘Moonchild’ is an expertly produced foray of Folk. Opening with the slow pluck of ‘When We Were Five’, producer Paul Stacey brings just enough background; including excellently placed effects and sax, to support the raw maturity of Soraia’s vocals.
Once the mini wall of sound subsides, it’s over to the straight strum of ‘Daffodils’; a careful reproduction of the eponymous track from Charlene Soraia’s 2008 EP.
Then the melodies of ‘Lightyears’ and ‘Rowing’ give real grounding, highlighting a careful balance of approach that runs concurrent (until the bonus track) throughout the album.
Lyrically, Soraia juggles the astute and the obvious. The acerbically brilliant ‘Bipolar’, parodying the selfish desires of precariously balanced women – ‘I think I’ll have a baby with a man who beats me’, taunts the Salisbury hangover of ‘Meadow Child’ – ‘He’s still a meadow child, one of the sun, I’ll stay in the shadow until he returns’, and other tracks. But it’s always believable. Which helps. And the album’s called ‘Moonchild’, so what did I really expect?
I’m a fan of Folk (not NuFolk, not Alternative Folk, just Folk), singer songwriters and strong female vocals. But I’ll judge them harder than anyone, picking holes as a must to non biased reporting.
So, that being clarified, ‘Moonchild‘ is a remarkable debut. Original, relevant, and perfectly produced (kudos Mr Stacey); maintaining an individuality and voice that deserve their own time and place.
My only concern (fear, necessary counterpoint) is how much material Charlene Soraia actually has. Many tracks on ‘Moonchild’ have been previously released, featuring on EPs since 2008; being CPRed by experienced production. And whilst the album retains Soraia’s stamp as a songwriter, some tracks fall between the cracks of a well polished debut.
Call it picky, call it unsupportive. Call it a back handed compliment. I’ve been listening to ‘Moonchild’ on repeat since I bought it, but it’ll grow old eventually.
For more information on Charlene Soraia, or to purchase a copy of ‘Moonchild’, visit http://charlenesoraia.com
Charlene Soraia plays The Glee Club on April 15th. For information on this, and other gigs at the venue, visit http://www.glee.co.uk/birmingham-music